By George Psyllides
THE government is racing to approve thousands of applications for the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) in time for Christmas, the labour minster said yesterday after deputies were told that over half of the 16,000 first-time applicants would not receive aid on time.
Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou told the state news agency her ministry had given priority to 8,000 applicants who were long-term unemployed and had no income whatsoever.
She said however that the government would also provisionally approve the other 8,000 from the 16,000 first-time applicants for the handout, which were not yet fully processed due to various delays.
The 8,000 additional applications were also being rushed through so that people who meet the basic criteria of property and bank deposits would at least be paid. Detailed checks will follow before a final approval was given, the minister said. “It is not right only for 8,000 applicants out of 16,000 to receive GMI,” she added.
She said that other applicants, those with at least some income, because they work part-time, had been put in a second-tier group, she said. “But it does not mean they will receive the GMI in the New Year.”
Earlier yesterday MPs were told that half of the 16,000 people applying for the first time for the state assistance might not be receiving the aid before the end of the year due to the delays in processing their forms.
Deputy head of the House Labour Comimittee, AKEL MP Skevi Koukouma, said only 8,000 of the 16,000 new applications for state assistance would be paid by the end of the year. “And we also dispute this and we are voicing our concern,” she said after the meeting.
Close to 70,000 people have applied for GMI, 16,373 of whom are long-term unemployed Cypriots, over 3,300 are non-Cypriot EU citizens, 719 third-country nationals, 21,000 existing welfare recipients and 28,135 low-income pensioners.
The authorities have examined 2,500 applications out of the 16,373 from the long-term unemployed category and have paid 640 beneficiaries. Another 800 were expected to receive their assistance in the next few days, deputies heard.
Koukouma said the authorities processing the applications were understaffed and it was crucial to bring in people from other departments to help in completing the procedure.
Another problem was that the information on 60 per cent of the applications was insufficient, adding to the delays, as the process was not simple.
GMI was introduced this year, to replace the previous system of state allowance, which was easy to abuse. However, the new system has been criticised as being excessively complicated, causing the delays in processing applications.
An applicant must supply confirmation of permanent residence by local authorities, proof and justification of any change in income levels over the last six months, mortgagees must provide a copy of their mortgage agreement and a current interest statement, and those who rent a home must submit a copy of the tenancy agreement.
Personal banking information must be accompanied by confirmation of its accuracy by the bank itself. Copies of identity cards, bank account statements for all involved (applicant and dependents) since January 1, 2014, and employer confirmation of monthly salary, are only some of the items on the list. Self-employed applicants are required to submit additional documentation, and non-Cypriot applicants yet more.
There is no hard line on eligibility in terms of income levels for the GMI – whether one is entitled to the allowance, and how much, depends on a variety of factors, including whether or not he has a mortgage or pays rent, the number and age of dependents, the individual’s net worth, and even the total area of his or her home. Thus, two people receiving identical monthly wages may find their respective applications treated differently.
In theory, anyone could be eligible provided he or she does not have over €5,000 in cash or own property worth more than €100,000 – excluding primary residences.